11
Sep
2012
DC Comics The New 52 Year One In Review Part 2
Reviews
Chris and Jordan
To mark the anniversary of one of the biggest comic stories of the past decade, Chris and Jordan take a look back at the first year of DC Comics New 52 Relaunch. Look for part 1 of the discussion in the comics section, and a special edition of the Review to Be Named Podcast on Wednesday, wherein Chris and Jordan will take a look at 10 specific titles that best represent the strengths and weaknesses of the New 52.

CHRIS:
I think the homogeneity of the DCU is gonna be one of those things that you and I will always have to agree to disagree on.  As for what I'd like to see from DC moving forward...how much time do we have?  

My biggest complaint of the New 52 has been the seemingly revolving door of writers and artists jumping on and off certain titles.  While there have been very few explanations given for these creative change ups beyond the company line (I think a lot of these creators are still bound by NDAs) a few writers have let slip frustrations over what they have described as an overbearing editorial board requesting numerous and at times contradictory changes.  As a reader, I prefer long runs on titles by writers who have a vision for a far reaching story.  If I'm going to commit to buying a title, I want to know that the creators who brought me to that title are in it for the long haul, otherwise I'd prefer to take my money elsewhere.  I don't feel like I have that kind of assurance at DC right now.  And while not every reader approaches books in this way, I'm sure I'm not in the minority.  

Allowing writers to settle in on books, to fully take the creative reigns, and work with each other (i.e. Snyder and Lemire on Swamp Thing and Animal Man) will help to rebuild the cohesive feelings of the universe, and straighten out the revamp continuity which has been an issue for DC since day 1 of the relaunch (We were six months into the initiative before it was decided whether or not Martian Manhunter had ever been a member of the Justice League or whether or not a team of Teen Titans had existed prior to the one introduced in the relaunch).  I don't mind continuity changes the way some fans do, but at the start of the relaunch it felt like back doors were being left open to decide some big questions on the fly, and while I can't imagine these were easy questions to tackle, the end result was that the launch felt messy in some instances.

I would also like to see DC focus less attention on its line of Bat titles (as of September, 13 books, a quarter of DC's catalogue will fall under this banner).  While the Bat line is undoubtedly the most consistently profitable line the publisher has, redistributing talent to other characters is good for the company's overall longevity.  Look at what Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Scriver, and Peter Tomasi did for Green Lantern!   By shifting top name talent over to a largely overlooked property, DC turned Green Lantern from a struggling solo title into a burgeoning franchise of four monthly ongoings.  As opposed to expanding the Bat Family, DC should be looking for the next Green Lantern, or better yet, fixing some of their currently floundering lines, like some of the books being published under the New 52 Young Justice banner.  

The Teen Titans are some of DC's most recognizable icons, especially to a younger audience who have watched the Teen Titans Go and Young Justice animated series.  Instead of putting younger talent on Teen Titans and its sister titles, talent that could identify with and capture the voice of younger characters, DC instead assigned the books to veteran, older creators most well known for writing books in the height of the 90s.  The result was a very awkward feel to these books, with dialogue bordering on ridiculous and a rebellious tone that seemed very juvenile and dated.  If any single group of DC books needs a complete line wide overhaul, it's the Young Justice titles.


JORDAN:
I can definitely agree with you on the idea that I am drawn to a book by the writer, and excited when a creator doing good work settles in for the long haul. I am incredibly excited that Scott Snyder has decided to stick with Batman for a while, and that he plans to be on Swamp Thing for a while as well. Similarly, I was incredibly disappointed when Paul Cornell left Stormwatch and his departure from the book exactly mirrored my own.

I definitely see your point on DC focusing less on Bat books and more on other, lesser known characters, but at the same time, the Bat family of titles has some of the best cohesiveness in the DCnU, and comprises a fair deal of the DC books I am still reading, so I can't fault DC too much for putting their time and talent where the money seems to reside. Not to pile on the Young Justice titles, but those were books I stuck with for a few issues, only to abandon once I had given up hope that they were going to be what I wanted from them. Teen Titans as a home for Tim Drake is exciting to me in theory, but in practice, it irked me more than it inspired me. Superboy started off with a fairly strong premise, but issue with pacing made me question whether there was a long term plan in the offing, and ultimately, to look for my angst-ridden teenage hero jollies elsewhere (aka, over in Marvel's astounding Avengers Academy, a book everyone should check out before it reaches its conclusion later this year).

That being said, I'm not sure the Green Lantern family of books is as stable as you seem to imply. Sure, Green Lantern has been very good throughout, and despite a few stumbles, seems to be going in some very exciting directions, but I'd stopped reading Red Lanterns after the first issue, and had dropped Green Lantern Corps and Green Lantern: New Guardians by the end of their first arcs. I don't think this "franchise" is beyond hope (with a literal universe to explore, each of these books could easily find a niche and become must reads), but I do think that it has some creative issues that need working out. Who do you think should be the next Green Lanter, as you put it? Is there a character you think is primed to become a DC tentpole?


CHRIS:
Putting aside our feelings on the current quality level of GL books (I think we're both a little underwhelmed), they do sell very well for the most part.  I have to admit, you got me, I can't readily think of any one character that DC could currently expand into a franchise like Green Lantern.  Perhaps the Young Justice line could be retooled with new solo series and team books for some of DC's more popular teen heroes, branching out of Teen Titans, the way DC is currently attempting to expand the Justice League franchise.  Or maybe they could more closely bundle the less popular Justice League associated solo titles like Green Arrow and Hawkman, and launch a few new series maybe featuring the Atom or Shazam!  Putting new talent on these books and having their stories interact on occasion a la Swamp Thing and Animal Man could breath new life into the lower end of DC's Justice books.  

Where would you like to see the DC go from here?  Who do you think were some of the breakout writers and what books would you like to see them tackle down the line?  And finally what lessons do you think Marvel should take from DC as they attempt their own Relaunch later this year?


JORDAN:
I'd like to see more of the cohesiveness we've been discussing, allowing some of the more disparate books to feel like they belong in the same universe. But to not sound like a broken record (cohesiveness, cohesiveness, cohesiveness), I would also like to see DC take some bigger risks. We've both touched on how much we love Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman, a book that took everything you thought you knew about the character and threw it out the window in favor of a new direction that has been bold, exciting, and fruitful from a narrative perspective. More of that, please.

I'm not sure its fair to call Scott Snyder a break-out writer, seeing as he had been killing it on Detective Comics for roughly a year previously and on American Vampire even before that, but he has become a can't-miss writer for me, and whatever he's writing, I'll be reading. Jeff Lemire has also made a fan out of me, killing Animal Man and his work on the early issues of Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. and taking Justice League Dark up another few notches since he jumped on board. In addition to hoping those gents stay right where they are for a while, I plan to follow them wherever they go for the foreseeable future. Geoff Johns has also reminded us how capable he is of refreshing a character and upping their profile with his solid work on Aquaman, so throwing him at any book in need of a spitshine isn't a bad idea.

As for advice Marvel should take from DC, I would tell them to think outside the box. A lot of my favorite DC books weren't around, or were markedly different, in the old DCU, and if Marvel is willing to take some of the risks DC took (even as I'm urging DC to take more risks, I have to give it credit for doing some very cool things) or to give some promising writers a project that will let them prove themselves, we may be in for another relaunch that does more good than harm to my burgeoning comics fandom. On a different note, I would tell Marvel to follow DC's lead on the, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it strategy." DC pretty much left the continuity of Batman and Green Lantern alone (and Marvel is wisely leaving all of their continuity intact) and kept Johns on Green Lantern and Snyder on a Bat book, just moving him to the easier to market Batman. Marvel has some great books right now, and the news we've heard of the relaunch has me worried that some of my favorite books will get lost or changed in the shuffle. I hope that won't be the case. As our Comics Editor, I'll let you have the last word here. I think we've made it clear we think the relaunch is a success, even as we might have some geeky nit-picking to do. What aspirations do you have for your favorite writers in the DCnU? Any other advice to throw at Marvel? And what other final thoughts do you have?

CHRIS:
As far as advice for Marvel, I think they already took numerous lessons from the New 52: A slower roll out of books (1 or 2 a week instead of 13) that will be easier for retailers and fans alike to process, commitment to keep writers on the titles they are assigned, and the fact that it is a relaunch, not a reboot. Perhaps the one thing I would like to see more of at Marvel right now is diversity. We mentioned before the exciting array of genre books DC launched at the outset of the New 52. Marvel has an incredible catalogue of characters that don't exactly fit the super hero mold and it would be great to see at least one of them starring in a non-traditional book come Marvel NOW time. Ka-Zar, Tun Gun Kid, Rawhide Kid, Blade, Werewolf By Night, and Dakota North are just a few of the characters who would be perfect to break out under the spotlight of this initiative.

With Grant Morrison soon to leave Action Comics (and planning on stepping back from super heroes in general for awhile) I think the top of my wish list would be for that book to go to Brian Azzarello who is currently killing it on Wonder Woman. Yes Azzarello already had run on Superman six or seven years back and I've heard a rumor that Andy Diggle already has the gig, but c'mon after reinvigorating Wonder Woman so thoroughly, DC should be jumping at the chance to put him on another big name property. It's also no secret that Scott Snyder really wants to take a crack at Superman at some point. As an avid Superman fan, this would be a dream come true (but I can wait until he's had a nice long run on both Batman and Swamp Thing) Paul Cornell I would like to see on any title he wants. Seriously. The rest of fandom didn't quite love Stormwatch the way you and I did Jordan, but what I saw on that title were the building blocks of an incredible run. He's an idea guy with a razor sharp wit and I would be happy to see him on a GL book, a Justice League book, or maybe Aquaman if the rumors of Johns' departure come January hold any water. Joshua Hale Fialkov has been lauded with critical acclaim for his I, Vampire, I wonder what he could do with one of the sagging Justice titles like Hawkman or Firestorm. Finally I would like to see some of the amazing artists working on the Before Watchmen titles filter their way into the New 52 once those books wrap. Imagine Jae Lee on Detective Comics, or Lee Bermejo on Superman or J.G. Jones on Justice League! I know I'll have my fingers crossed as Before Watchmen winds down.

I think the reason you and I are so hard on DC, in our critiques of how they handled the initiative is because the abundant amount of respect that we both have for the publisher in undertaking a risk of this magnitude. We both wanted DC to succeed because this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for them to shakeup the comics landscape, draw in new fans, and pull back lapsed readers. The announcement of the New 52 garnered an unprecedented amount of mainstream media attention, the kind I don't see popping up around Marvel's launch, because it's less extensive and because DC was first. Bottom line, we wanted new readers to see what we see in DC, so we wanted to see them put their very best foot forward. Sometimes it is easy to forget, amid our frustrations with rapid writer change-ups and continuity confusion that in the end, the New 52 was a sales success. Not only did it consistently give DC the lion's share of the top ten sellers month to month for the first time in years, but it increased the health of comic sales across the board. Those new readers that DC picked up didn't just buy DC. They bought Marvel and Dark Horse and Image and so on. Whether you read DC or not, agree with what they did or not, it's hard to argue that at the end of the day the New 52 didn't have a very positive effect on the comics landscape. And while we both do have numerous nitpicks with the current state of the catalogue we are both onboard and excited for year two of the New 52.


Check back tomorrow for a special edition of the Review To Be Named Podcast where Chris and Jordan take a closer look at Justice League, Justice League Dark, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Batman, Wonder Woman, Demon Knights, Earth 2, Catwoman, Green Arrow, and Teen Titans.
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